You can put overpayments of EDD or Unemployment in to a chapter 7 bankruptcy and discharge the debt. EDD overpayments happen when people are collecting unemployment when possibly working or other issues that allow the EDD to come after you. They can garnish wages to recoup the overpayment. These overpayments by the EDD are absolutely dischargeable in Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If you make too much money to file chapter 7 bankruptcy 50k for an individual, 63k if you are married, then you can discharge them in a chapter 13 bankruptcy as well.


I have been seeing more and more people with HOA issues. HOA’s can foreclose against a property. HOA attorney’s like Fiore Racobs and Power do exclusive HOA work and rack up very large attorney fees on behalf of HOA’s when people are in default. Filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy will wipe out your personal liability against an HOA but they typically still have a secured aspect on there ability to collect against the property. I have seen HOA’s foreclose on people post bankruptcy because although the can’t collect on pre-petition HOA’s against the person, they do collect on HOA’s that become due after the bankruptcy.

One issue that a lot of people are facing with HOA’s is that although they file bankruptcy the bank doesn’t take back the property for a long time. Filing bankruptcy isn’t necessarily surrendering the property back to the bank. The bank still has to foreclose before you are taken off title. HOA’s are able to collect on the property based on who is on title. The benefit of the HOA goes to the title owner so even though you may have abandoned the property if you are still on title the HOA’s can collect against you. I have had clients that have left a property filed a bankruptcy case only to get sued for $5000 dollars two years after the bankruptcy. Because the banks didn’t foreclose my clients are still legally on the hook for post-petition HOA dues. I use the metaphor to explain this as HOA’s are like utilities, if you don’t pay your power bill for a few months, and then you file a bankruptcy case, you can get rid of the money you owed for the benefit of using the power before the bankruptcy. Any utilities that come due after the bankruptcy must be paid.

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California has had some decent growth in property values lately with the lowering of interest rates, investors buying homes, and some people trying to get into a hot market before interest rates go up. This has been somewhat a good thing for housing prices. If you are considering filing bankruptcy for other debt related issues you may want to jump in before the market continues to rise. I have had two clients in the last month who have come to me from Cathedral city and haven’t paid there mortgage in over a year. One wanted to file a chapter 7 as he was divorced, the ex-wife was living in the house and he just had too much debt to manage. Amazingly he didn’t realize that his house was an asset. Last year the house was probably worth 150 and his not was about 160. Since he had no intention of saving his house and couldn’t pay the arrears with a now split family I decided to recommend a realtor to him before we filed. He was able to put 20k in his pocket within a month and we have delayed the filing of the bk for him. Once the money is out of escrow and in his account I can file using the 703 exemptions and protect the money with the wild card. So without the bankruptcy and a good lawyer spotting the value in the house he could of either lost the house and let the bank capitalize on that or we could have just filed the bankruptcy quickly and the trustee might have sold the house and paid the 20k to unsecured creditors. Having someone on your side with your interests and not a person who is just trying to file a million cases allows these kinds of insights to manifest into truly starting over with a fresh start.

My other client is in the same boat but wants to try to save the house as the mortgage is reasonable and renting would be just as expensive. We will pay back her arrears through a chapter 13 and if when she decides we can sell the house with court approval during the process. This might allow her to capitalize even more if the housing prices start to go up.

The other thing an experienced bankruptcy lawyer will look out for and make motions should he need to is that when you file a case your house might be worth what you owe and you use the 703 exemptions with the wild card to protect cash, cars, toys etc. You feel that is the better route since the property doesn’t really have equity. The thing is the trustee could keep the case open and even though you get a discharge he doesn’t file the no asset report and the case is not closed. If in 6 months the property has gained 5 % and its got 20k in equity the trustee could make a motion to sell and meanwhile you and bankruptcy attorney were asleep at the wheel thinking you got the discharge case closed. If a no asset report is not filed at the time of a discharge I will make a motion to the court to abandon assets. You don’t want the trustee buying the benefit of time and potentially selling one of your assets. In this market its something you have to be aware of.

If you are struggling with Debt and on the fence about filing bankruptcy and you own a home, now might be the time to really consider the window. In California an individual gets an exemption of 75k or 100k for a married couple. Once you get above that equity your home becomes an asset that is too much to protect in chapter 7. Therefore the trustee would liquidate the home and give you the check for 75 or 100k and pay your creditors the remaining proceeds. That means unsecured creditors collect in a chapter 7 which is unusual but as prices go up the more that scenario becomes a reality. The cost of sale is taken into consideration as well. Usually a fair number for cost of sale analysis is 8-10% with 8% being more common. The reason for this is brokers, escrow and other costs that go into the sale of a house. I’ll do an example with numbers to make it more clear. If you are married you get an exemption of $100k dollars. So lets say you owe the bank 200k as a note against your house. Lets say the house is worth 325. As I mentioned the the exemption is 100k and the cost of sale would be 24k at 8% Under this analysis the trustee would not be enticed to sell your house. The trustees job is to sell assets that are non-exempt to pay unsecured creditors aka credit cards medical bills etc. If they pay realtors and costs 24k that does nothing for them and then they owe the bank 200k on the note and the debtors would get a check for there exemption at 100k since they are entitled to that as a priority before unsecured creditors get paid. I would assume 340k would be the price that would entice them but it doesn’t stop them from strong arming you to pay 15k to not sell it. Therefore since housing prices are going up at least temporarily, if you have equity in a home now might be a good time to get a bankruptcy analysis. I am a riverside country bankruptcy attorney specializing in bankruptcy. I live in Palm Springs and work in Palm Desert but serve all Riverside country and surrounding areas. Feel free to call to speak with an attorney about your debt and home matters as they apply to bankruptcy.

Tax refunds for many chapter 7 clients become the tool that allow them to straighten out there financial affairs. For more and more people straightening out their affairs means discharging unsecured debts and wiping out minimum monthly fees that can strangle a budget. Getting the lump sum money in February or March for those that file early allow them to pay what most bankruptcy attorneys will charge to file a chapter 7. Over the years I have had more and more people who are on payment plans tell me that once they get there tax refund they will finally be able to pay the fees and service fees associated with a bankruptcy. The costs of filing bankruptcy with the court is $306 and most attorneys who use sophisticated software download there credit reports from the 3 bureaus to capture all creditors and get the updated bankruptcy addresses where notices need to be sent. That fee is typically $30 for an individual or $50 for a joint filing(Aka husband and wife). Along with those two fees there are two required credit counseling classes which charge at least $15 and $15 for each although some charge up to $50. As a qualified bankruptcy attorney in Riverside County filing 20 cases a month typically I will direct you to the cheapest and best sites to do the classes. So at a minimum there are $400 dollars in outgoing costs to various vendors to file. I typically charge $1100-$1500 depending on the complexity of a chapter 7 case. Things that make cases more complex are the income that people make if significantly higher than median, analyzing profit and losses for self employed people. Typically though, the type of consumer who is using there tax refund to file are wage earners who are employed and get a w2 and make less than the median income which is 48k for an individual 60k for a couple with each child adding about 6k to the equation. For those people its typically a simple case and I can potentially do it for $1400 which includes all the filing fees and costs that I mentioned above. If you are going to be receiving a refund and are struggling with debt issues, talk with a qualified bankruptcy attorney. I have been practicing law for 10 years and the last 5 have been solely focused on bankruptcy cases with chapter 7 and chapter 13 cases for individuals and businesses. I know all the trustees in Riverside and know what to look for and how to put together a case to sail through the process a smoothly as possible. Wishing you the best in 2013.

Chris Hewitt

Raymond Lee sues a lot of people in southern california and in Riverside county where I typically practice. Most cases in my jurisdiction are heard in Indio and are often brought by American Express who sends a lot of there accounts to Zwicker and Associates. You have many options in how to deal with the law suit that you have recently been served but first thing you need to do is speak with a competent lawyer to examine those options. When you have been sued you have 30 days to answer or you could face a default judgment which essentially says you agree to everything and allow them to collect against you through a judgement. Remember a judgment is good for 10-20 years with a renewal and collects 10% interest plus when they win they tack on attorney fees, costs for bringing the suit etc so now is not the time to put your head in the sand. Many times I negotiate these cases down to 50% of what you owe. Sometimes we have to answer the law suit, other times I call them directly and work on a settlement prior to answering to save money. If they won’t come to the right number then we answer to make them realize they are going to have to work and expend money to get potential money. This often brings them back to the negotiating table quicker. Another option that I have and they realize is that I file chapter 7 or chapter 13 bankruptcy cases which either means they get paid nothing or what you can afford over either three or five years. All of a sudden a settlement sounds good to them. Raymond Lee is located in Pasadena so sending someone out to fight this case with someone that fights them every step on the way in Indio is not cheap. This is done for clients that might not be perfectly situated to file a current bankruptcy. Sometimes filing a bankruptcy case is all about timing depending on where you income is or certain financial things that you have done too recently to filing a bankruptcy case which necessitate waiting. Filing an answer to buy time in these types of cases is critical. Also, sometimes bankruptcy isn’t necessary depending on how old other debt that you have is, if you are about to meet the statute of limitations on your other debt and make above the median income, filing a 13 might not make sense so answering and negotiating becomes advantageous. If you have debt and have been served and wonder your options, call a knowledgeable riverside county bankruptcy attorney who looks at things from all angles before sending you down a one road solution.

When looking at whether you qualify for bankruptcy as a chapter 7 or chapter 13 the size of your household makes a big difference. Chapter 7 allows you to not pay any money back to creditors whereas chapter 13 requires that you do a payment plan that last either 3 or 5 years depending on whether you are above or below the median income. In the central district of california which is the local bankruptcy court for Riverside, San Bernadino County and Los Angeles County, the trustees seem to use a heads on bed approach as opposed to traditional family or what your dependents that you claim on your tax return says. Sometimes there are children that live between to households which can benefit you if you can include them in your bankruptcy even though your spouse claims them on the previous year tax returns and things like that.

In Palm Springs, many of my clients are gay which allow me to find creative ways to qualify people for bankruptcy and determining whether to include a partner or not. Some people are domestic partners, married, or just living together which all have different and varying consequences and allow me to creatively think about how to get the best result. Because bankruptcy is federal most trustees only require federal tax returns which can be helpful to gay couple that are married and file joint returns in California but as single under federal taxes since the federal government does not recognize gay marriage. This can make a big difference in qualifying for chapter 7 since an individual income can be up to 48k a year but when you are a family of two its 62k. By treating to people as single it allows the household unit to make up to 96k which can be a huge benefit.

If you are thinking about bankruptcy and have debt problems and live in Riverside County, talk with a bankruptcy lawyer who deals with our local trustees and knows the in and outs of the bankruptcy court before walking down that path without counsel.

When you have assets that are above the amounts that the california exemptions in chapter 7 are able to protect, it puts property that you have in potential risk of being liquidated. Something that most people don’t understand though is that you have the option to buy it back from the trustee typically at a discounted rate before the trustee puts it on the market. That is what an equity buy back is. In general for most of my bankruptcy clients this is extremely rare because California has extremely generous exemptions which typically allow most debtors to protect all there assets. There are two exemption models that you can use which are known as the 703 or 704 exemptions. 704 exemptions are for people with a lot of equity in there house(not so many in riverside county). Typically for people who have no refinanced in the last 15 years and are older. Most married couples can protect 100k in equity in there home so if your house is worth 300k and you owe 200k your equity interest would be exempt. If you are 55 or older with a certain income you can get 125k in equity and 65 or older can be up to 175k in equity. Since most clients of mine do not have equity we use the 703 exemptions which give you $3500 for a car, 1400 for jewelry, 23,000 as a wildcard which you can use however you want. So if your car is worth 10k and you don’t have a secured creditor through financing then you would have to borrow 6500 from the wildcard which would still leave you with 17k to use how you wish. When you go over the wildcard then the trustee will ask if you want to buy back what he could liquidate to pay your creditors. For example I had a client who owned a 30k dollar car, had an IRA for 100k, jewelry of $1000 and 10k worth of household goods. In this situation the IRA/401k etc is protected 100%. The jewelry is protected up to 1400 so its protected 100%. The household goods are in general protected so no issue. The wildcard and the car exemption equal about 27k so the trustee could send me a letter if they are interested in 3000 dollars and let me know that we need to pay 3000 or else he will sell the car and pay my client 27k and have 3k to pay creditors. For that small of an amount the trustee typically wouldn’t do it as its to much of a pain to administer an estate that small and buy the time he paid auctioneer fees, fees to pick up and store the car etc there truly would be nothing to distribute to creditors. If its closer to 10k then the letter will come for sure. If someone did not want to lose that 10k then they could file a chapter 13 and they would have to pay at least 10k back to creditors over 5 years. If that is your only reason however to file a 13 my typical suggestion would be to do a 7 and pay the 10k over 1 year if they can afford it. These are the general issues in understanding what happens to debtors with more assets than typical and the option of the equity buy back. Call a riverside bankruptcy attorney if you have questions about how a liquidation analysis would unfold in your chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Today is memorial day and a day to reflect on how people in uniform give back to our country by facing the ultimate sacrifice. Being a bankruptcy attorney in the coachella valley I have assisted many clients who serve in the 29 Palms area. I always take there cases for the cheapest that I will do any bankruptcy for which leaves me very little if any profit after you take all of my expenses into consideration. That charge is $1000 dollars for attorney fees. I am always amazed that the people who are willing to go to war and move there families all over the country are paid a low as they are and yet still come into the army many time with car repossessions and other debt problems. I recently had a client that makes a net pay $1500 a month but spends close to 900 to service an unsecured debt load. He had a wife and a child as well. Fortunately for him he only had to not pay his creditors for a month and he had my fee taken care of. Some people who have called me talk to their superior officers who tell them that bankruptcy can have potential clearance and security issues in their future and seem to try to dissuade them from a law that is here to benefit all citizens.

To me its not fathomable to try to keep someone living in poverty over mistakes they have made in the past or just the effects of the economy which have seen people left with bad 2nd mortgages after foreclosure or job loss leading to not being able to make good on car financing contracts etc. In my experience I have filed bankruptcy for managers of city’s, heads of police departments, multi-million dollar business creators. They have all used the bankruptcy code to their benefit so to see people in uniform dissuaded from using bankruptcy is something that I don’t agree with. If you are military and stationed in Twenty-nine palms please call me for a fair evaluation of how bankruptcy can effect you. Call an experienced Riverside County Bankruptcy Attorney. You’ll be glad you did. Happy memorial day and thank you for your service.